Tea Is A Constant

I try to allow myself simple pleasures. Tea is one of the small things that improves my life, gives me a resting meditative moment and prevents me from drinking much soda. Green and white teas are loaded with antioxidants and go wonderfully with various foods. I drink mine warm but sometimes make cold brewed tea in summer. A floral white tea called White Peony is pictured below.


My friend Lauri Smith and I connected over our love of tea and I recently purchased some tea from her business White Cloud World Teas. I typically drink white and green teas but I’ve also grown to like the earthy smokey flavors of oolong like this Ting Tung Oolong pictured below. Tea drinkers eventually sound like wine drinkers or foodies comparing the flavor contrasts of various brews.


I’ll always go back to my love of plain camellia sinensis, the tea plant. Herbal teas are nice but there’s something mystic about the complex flavors that come out of this one plant. Below is a green tea called Dragon’s Well.


How to mulch your garden

Learning how to mulch your garden is really simple. If you search online you’ll find many tips, tricks and ways but over time I’ve learned that I’m a lazy gardener. The lazy way of mulching is sheet mulching. I want the most benefit for the least amount of effort. Anyone who gardens around Austin, Texas knows what we’re up against climate wise, geographically and rich alluvial soil isn’t on the agenda. Mulch helps you build soil and building soil is what organic gardeners do.

After a long hot summer this is what my garden looked like.

Supplies you’ll need:
1) Mulch..preferably truck loads of it.
2) Cardboard. No gloss, just brown or white paper that’ll decay
3) Pitchfork and wheelbarrow

This style of mulching applies to various gardens including ornamental plants but I use wood mulch for paths in my garden. Currently my focus is on edibles and I find that wood mulch and cardboard is the easiest way to take care of weeds, build soil long term and as the mulch decays it just makes better soil to be brief. You put down cardboard to smother bermuda grass. We all love bermuda grass as Austin gardeners right? Blech! The stuff is pernicious. Stop weeding it and start smothering it. It’s harder working than we are but it’s definitely not as smart.

So you put down cardboard and cover it completely with mulch 3-6″ deep. If at a later date you have more weeds you can spot mulch. In summer things are dry and hot and I do little gardening. The result is that after two years my garden is full of weeds but have no fear, you can do the same to your garden bed by weedeating heavily, putting down several layers of newspaper and putting compost on top 3″ or more deep. Same style, different result. You can plant directly in the compost. Over time both of these methods, for the paths and the garden, will keep you cool and gardening.

So how does this relate to back pain, spine care and a good life? Mulch provides cushion, meaning less impact, particularly on your lumbar spine. Masanobu Fukuoka used to become frustrated that farmers wouldn’t walk barefoot in their fields to feel the soil underneath them. Create better gardens, create better spines.

Okra…isn’t so bad, looking at least.

Raw milk

Just the words strike fear into many it seems. Milk itself has been under attack for some time by vegans and others who consider drinking milk post baby to be absurd. Images of horribly treated animals, bovine growth hormones and cattle bred repeatedly to produce milk are tossed around while most have never really been around cattle, dairy or otherwise.

Raw milk is legal in the state of Tx under strict rules. Dairies are highly inspected and one of these rules regarding raw milk is that it Cannot be delivered, you Must pick it up at the farm. You can see how living in a city would make this difficult. These laws and rules aren’t set up to help farmers, their set up to help agribusiness. Do small dairy farmers have money for lobbyists? The milk lobby does. Got legislators?

I admit my ideas about food issues are strongly influenced by the writing of Joel Salatin.

I’d never had any raw milk until recently. I got a message from someone I know letting me know that someone was bringing some into the city. Feeling I was purchasing Afghani heroin I whispered to my wife and asked if she wanted to try “raw milk.” We won’t even cook it in a spoon, so pure it’ll just dissolve in water. So, we made our contacts, set up our pick up time and I drive in and wait. Drugs. This is buying drugs folks. It was day time but this distinctly felt like a surreptitious illicit transaction.

I had my cash ready and scored our teat juice and asked the guy who delivered it, “Isn’t this illegal?” He said that in fact the delivery is but he’s hoping the laws will change. I nodded, didn’t want to make too much of our drug deal and headed home to keep our milk cool.

I cracked open our gallon and it just looks like, well, milk. Same gallon plastic jug, same plastic top with that removable band. I poured it into a glass and noted that the pour was different, thicker. I tasted it and was delighted to see that this was more creamy than what I get at the store. Over time I’ve noted that since the produce isn’t homogenized it separates some, the cream tends to rise and I can shake it to mix it if I care to. Overall, it’s just milk. I find it creamier, richer in flavor and I really prefer it.

We’ve been drinking it now for a few months and my choice is the raw milk. Regardless of any concerns about health, pasteurization and such I think it just tastes better and that’s enough for me. It’s local, depending on how you define that, supports a neighbor farmer and his cows are hopefully well tended and cared for. Keeping money in the local economy is good and I don’t mind spending a few extra dollars on food that’s source is traceable.

I’ve had one glass of pasteurized Horizon organic milk since drinking raw milk. Only thing I could think was, “this tastes cooked.” Let your tastebuds and gut be the judge.

Compost happens

Our lawnmower has been finicky and I’ve used a drill, plyers, turning it to get the air bubble out of the way, taking the top off and trying to repair the spring to crank and taking the crank casing off and wrapping a cord manually to get it to run. This has all been with limited success. I’m good at preparing a meal, good with back pain and yoga/bodywork but when it comes to small engine repair, I’m still learning.

Patience in this area doesn’t come easy for me and the second day after another section of the yard was mowed I knew it was time to rest. I pulled the lanwmower aside, considered my job well done and while chatting with my friend who’s in town, grabbed the pitchfork, wheelbarrow and bags of leaf mold. Time to mulch the garden beds.

The onions need a heavy mulching as they sit in the ground and the bed is round making it more difficult to get to the center. I pulled up a bag or two of leaves that are riddled with holes and earthworms were eating through the leaves and organic matter. Into the wheelbarrow they went, an old bale of hay tossed on top and away we go.

Last summer was rough, I almost wanted to give up gardening. My redworms died in the heat and I decided to let the garden sit fallow. No use in struggle or fight, nature will do what it does.

This spring the garden is extremely productive. Sugar snap peas, radishes, mustard and turnip greens and swiss chard are all plentiful with more things planted and coming along. Heat will be here before long but I’ve learned not to fight, just go with. By that time most of the garden will be southern peas, yard long beans, okra and malabar spinach. No use in struggle.

Planning, preparation and building soil takes time. I’ve harvested leaves, made compost, hauled wood mulch and keep working on things season after season. Over time you see the soil fertility build, seeds sprout more easily and plants grow stronger and faster. All that from a suburban lot that used to be just grass.

Plant seeds where your bliss lay and watch them grow.

Remember: compost happens.


Andrea encouraged me to obtain a blender so we could start having smoothies for breakfast. Years ago at a health food store in La I remember making smoothies and not being very impressed but when Andrea asks I try to push my edges. Little did I know I’d start the next month off having one for breakfast every morning and actually enjoying them.

I’ll provide a basic recipe but keep in mind that it’s versatile and you can play with ratios and ingredients depending on what’s available.

Basic recipe for 2 people, about 2 16 oz. glasses:
2 ripe bananas
2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup pomegranata juice
2 scoops whey protein powder
3 tbsp nutritional yeast (B vitamins)
1/2-2/3 cup frozen blueberries
handful of greens (we use whatever we get from @JBGorganic or pick from the garden)
4 tbsp ground flax seeds (I use a spice grinder to process them)

That is the basic smoothie I’ve been making. Additional options and ingredients are nearly infinite. We’ve also used black cherry juice, frozen fruit like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, mango juice, coconut milk and every green imaginable. Swiss chard and spinach seem to be the most popular.

In the future we hope to buy matcha green tea in bulk and add that to smoothies to enrich it’s antioxidant content. So what about you, what do you like in your smoothies?

13 pt.3

Hospital cafeteria food? Is it really food? It may be a touch better than what I remember being served in public school but I can’t consider it much in the way of health giving. Food is an extremely touchy subject for many people. I think I’ve lost more friends to vegetarianism, vegans or raw food than anything including drugs or religion.

What’s healthy to eat? There is no definition of health. George Burns lived on coffee and cigars and lived to be 100. I’m not saying it’s everyones choice but all things in moderation.

Beyond the nutritional content of the muffins, juice and high fructose corn syrup of the coke I just purchased from the cafe is the quantity that people consume those foods in. I’m unsure of the ratio but I often think our bodies are capable of fending off huge amounts of illness but we overtax them. Do we really need the buffet at Golden Corral? Quality and quantity are linked in much the same way that nature and nurture are.

High fructose corn syrup is consumed in amounts that are staggering. It’s placed into most packaged processed foods and although I don’t avoid it all together I do try to limit it in our house. I started buying soda with regular sugar like Mountain Dew Throwback and the kids like it just fine. Regular sugar has the same glycemic index issues but I trust it more due to its longer history with our species. We also limit the kids to a single soda a day.

It’s not to me about absolutes, right and wrong so much as general paths. This is the direction we’re headed, what helps us get there? I don’t want to feel shame when I eat anything, even the Whataburger I had late last night. Guilt, shame, and eating to avoid feeling is a sure way to develop a negative relationship to something that should be healing. Taking joy in food, even the occasional soda with hfcs is surely better for you than being sad and lamenting your choices for hours on end.

Now to find out if I get arrested for doing headstands in the hospital waiting room.

Rhythms in nature

I’ve been gardening for years now and still know nothing. Patience is acquired in gardening through the slow process of whittling away the unnecessary much like your yoga practice.


Over time I start seeds in trays and get a 50% hit or miss ratio on sprouting and transplanting.





Direct seeding has been even more topsy turvy and I’d say I’ve got a 20% success rate. Some of my seed was getting old in the fall so I decided to just plant it directly and let nature take its course. I watered for several weeks and nothing sprouted. Oh well, live and learn. The planting guides for our area I’ve decided are written by trolls with a sense of humor.



We had lots of rain and then in the middle of winter, things sprout. Alright…just let the rhythm do what it does. You’re the reminder nature. Start where you are, grow your roots. Indeed.

Master cleanse revisit

I wanted to settle back into a normal eating pattern and discuss any changes from the cleanse this time around. I lost about 10lbs on the cleanse, 2-4 of which I’ve gained back now that I’m eating again. Overall there was no epiphany this time around, no huge mental changes. I do notice that my yoga practice is more nuanced and due to the decreased size of my belly I could go more deeply into some yoga poses, particularly twists.

The overall benefits of the cleanse still far outweigh any negatives. I’m eating smaller portions, have more of a sense of when I’m full and am focusing on eating higher quality food. All good things.

My family and I have joined Johnson’s Backyard Garden as CSA subscribers. Look for recipes using their produce in the future. The last several days dinner has just been large salads. Drought in Tx meant that my gardening went to nothing so it’s nice to have fresh produce again.

The cleanse is good, go slow and at your own pace. Listen to your body.

Chickens and ethics

In this video I discuss chickens and the symbiosis that we’ve formed between our species and theirs. I briefly discuss Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan and here mention Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I recommend checking into the work of all three and I’ll have later posts discussing each.

Chickens form a larger portion of the worlds meat consumption. I don’t demand you stop eating fast food chicken but begin to consider where your food comes from. Just acknowledging is the first step. If you like chicken, explore. Free range, organic, pastured, well fed birds are wonderful.

Special thanks to Kevin Roberts for showing me what real chicken is about. Fresh grilled liver and hearts will always remind me of days on the farm.


This recipe always makes me feel like home. It’s wonderful party food and a great way to use leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. Follow the instructions about how to cook the rice, that’s the most important part of the meal that people seem to mess up. Don’t pull a Bobby Flay.

Eat well. Winter is coming.

Master cleanse finished

Today was the 11th day and I broke the cleanse by having miso soup and sushi for lunch. I felt fine for most of the cleanse and had no issues. Occasionally I was hungry in the evenings but I drank a little more lemonade and was fine.

The saline was fine and I continued taking it in the mornings before I had things to do except two days where it wasn’t feasible due to time. Overall I consider it a success. I’ll post a video in a day or so once I’ve settled into a normal eating pattern again and discuss if there are any additional changes. People often find that they have a shift after a cleanse sometimes accompanied by insight into their lives or something that’s been stuck.

I encourage you to explore the master cleanse on your own without judgement. Remember it’s your body, go at your own speed.

Chicken stock

This is the recipe for the stock that we made from our chicken skin and bones that were leftover from roasting the birds. It’s very simple and consider buying whole birds in the future to make use of this recipe. The birds are cheaper purchased whole and you get more for your money.